April 11, 2018 / 10:21 PM / 10 months ago

N.Korea's rubber stamp parliament convenes in leader's absence

SEOUL, April 12 (Reuters) - North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly convened on Wednesday where state finances were discussed, North Korean state media reported on Thursday, while leader Kim Jong Un appeared to be absent from the proceedings.

An empty seat presumed to be the leader’s could be seen in photographs distributed by North Korea’s central news agency and there was no mention of his attendance in the state media reports.

The Supreme People’s Assembly, a rubber-stamp parliament, holds these meetings once or twice a year to approve decisions on issues such as governing structures and budgets that have been created by the state’s powerful Workers’ Party, members of which form the vast majority of the assembly.

Kim Jong Un’s attendance is not mandatory, although in previous occasions he has made speeches at the events. Wednesday’s assembly meeting comes just a few weeks ahead of the first summit the two Koreas will have in more than a decade on April 27.

The parliament assembly had been in focus due to the flurry of diplomacy recently seen centering North Korea including the inter-Korean summit, with policymakers keen to see whether Kim Jong Un would offer comments that would lend insight to his stance on related affairs.

KCNA reported on Thursday the speakers at the meeting touched on economic strides the North had made in the past year and that the state budget had been used “exactly” last year.

Of last year’s budget, 15.8 percent was used in bolstering the North’s military defences while 47.7 percent of spending was executed to boost the economy, KCNA said. It did not offer an amount for last year’s budget.

Kim Jong Un is due to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in late May or early June, Trump said earlier this week. Separately, Kim Jong Un chaired a party meeting on Monday in which he assessed future talks with Washington and his upcoming summit with South Korea. (Reporting by Christine Kim Editing by Clive McKeef)

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